The air up there

Traveling during the offseason can have its challenges. Weather can be one of those. We knew heading over here in November, that things could be pretty unpredictable, and that this was the rainiest month of the year. It’s all well and good to say you’re prepared for that, but another to be truly prepared.

We set out this morning for Lagoa do Fogo, another crater that is a national park. It was drizzling here in the city when we woke up, but by the time we reached half way to the lake we were in the clouds, literally. After some white knuckled driving to the peak, we realized hiking down into the crater was not going to happen.

Gorgeous view should be here

After a brief “what’s next” discussion, we headed down the other side of the crater towards Caldeira Velha, a mystical hot springs paradise enveloped in jungle. However, after arriving, we found out they only take cash, and we had yet to have a need for cash, so had none. Our options were limited on where to get it. After another brief “what should we do” conversation, we headed down towards the north coast town of Ribeira Grande to get some cash and decide our next move.

What we found in Ribeira Grande was an unexpectedly charming town, with a main strip with shops and cafes, and plenty of city squares. We took some time to walk the town, and make our way down to the beach to watch the waves.

We also realized the island’s only distillery was in town, so we headed over to Fábrica De Licores – A Mulher de Capote. We were given a guided tour (when I say tour, I mean, 3 minutes of here’s the barrels, here the production room, here’s the store) by Tiago, third generation owner and operator. Like many of the Azoreans we’ve met, he was wonderfully engaging, and happy to answer any question we might have. We sampled a few of their products including milk liqueur, rice liqueur, passion fruit liqueur and passion fruit jam – all delicious.

Aged in American Oak

Charmed to the brim, and with cash in our pocket, we headed back to Caldeira Velha to try again. This place is just heavenly, a perfect spot for a late afternoon soak. Surrounded by jungle, the natural hot springs range from a tepid 77 to a jacuzzi like 96. We started in the upper pool which has a waterfall flowing into it, before making our way down to the lower pool for a relaxing steam.

Jungle Heaven

Perfectly relaxed, we headed back to the city for another evening on the town. Dinner at Casa da Rosa, then coffee and cocktails on the town plaza at Cafe Central, and a late night burger at Burger King (just to see what’s different).